Like many people, I come from a long line of veterans and I am proud that members of my family have helped change the history of America. On a day like Veteran’s Day, we remember those from our collective past who served us and saved us. What any member of a military family would tell you about this day though is that they spend a good part of it thinking about the future. They have to ask questions like, how is the military going to affect my family tomorrow? How do I explain duty and honor to a child who misses their parent? How do we get by with a slim salary, an uncertain future and (in too many cases) how do we do it alone?
My father, grandparents, cousins, brothers-in-law, and friends have all sacrificed so much but I have to admit that the one I think about the most is my baby niece. She’s 2 years old and if my sister and her husband decide they want to remain in the military, she will spend her young life being subject to so many adult emotions. I do my fair share of worrying about her father but it’s nothing compared to the impact that fear is going to have on her life.
I’m not a paranoid person but I worry about so many things when it comes to my niece. Raising children in the military is a system centuries old. I’m sure that when all is said and done she will turn out a well-adjusted adult.
And even though her road will be a scary one, I hope she can look past it all and find the good and take things from her experience.
I hope she never forgets what it’s like to move around a lot
I didn’t grow up with active duty parent but my family moved for other reasons. I know what that lifestyle has in store for her. I hope she makes friends everywhere she goes, and doesn’t lose track of the good ones. I hope she never lets herself settle for one town but instead finds pieces of herself in many cities. Moving around is hard on a child, but hard in a way that teaches you a lesson about change and opportunities over the horizon.
I hope she learns honor.
Military jobs rarely come with the key to a mansion and, arguably, never give you anything the easy way. I hope my niece learns that her father is sacrificing more than just time, energy and livelihood. Yes, he gets compensated for what he does but compensating military personnel is not a game of equality wherein we pay them a perfect amount of money in exchange for their service. Sometimes, soldiers fall through the cracks, terrible things happen, or someone pays the ultimate price. In that scenario, no soldier’s family has ever been “fairly” compensated for the loss of their son, father, brother. Despite that, soldiers keep fighting everyday and it’s honor that keeps them going.
In the end, I hope she thinks it was worth it.
There wouldn’t be much to fight for is she couldn’t ask that one question. I hope that one day, when she is old and has lived a long honest life, she looks back on the sacrifices that her family made and thinks that people’s lives are better off. I hope she thinks that she shared her dad with the United States of America in the hopes to make things better. Selfishly, I hope she knows how hard it is for me to live far away from her now and how much I miss her. But that is the unspoken sacrifice of all military families. You give up normality and a standard life and you don’t hope for anything in return. Most importantly, I hope she knows we all appreciate her sacrifice too.